Rookie Corner – 283 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 283

A Puzzle by Sloop

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Sloop is our latest new setter. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

Welcome to Sloop.  There was a lot of potential in the cluing for this crossword but also a few areas where greater attention to detail would have greatly improved the cluing.  In particular, parts of speech should match in the definition in the wordplay.  There were too many instances where this was not observed.  Despite this, there was a lot of inventiveness in evidence.  Perhaps some of the cryptic definition clues were too obvious and could have been better hidden.  With only 12 across clues and 20 down clues, the puzzle would look unbalanced in print.  The commentometer reads as 7/31 or 22.6%.


1 Do Dales cows form weird feeling of doom (5,2,8)
SWORD OF DAMOCLES – An anagram (weird) of DO DALES COWS FORM.  I don’t think that definition is accurate.  The solution is not a feeling of doom but a portent of doom.

9 24 hour bunk used only occasionally (3,3)
DAY BED – A just about mildly cryptic definition of an item of furniture used for resting during the hours of daylight.

10 Fliers that were Icarus’s downfall (8)
WAXWINGS – Nice definition and cryptic definition of Icarus’s flying items that melted when he flew too close to the sun.

11 Piano vendor has no hesitation to tactfully push his wares (4,4)
SOFT SELL – A four letter word for piano musically followed by a six letter word for vendor with a two letter word for a hesitation removed (has no hesitation).

14 Just say no – but opiates do provide blissful state (6)
UTOPIA – The answer is hidden (provide) in the third to fifth words of the clue.  Technically, the words “Just say” are padding, they may be justified from the anti-drugs campaign in the mid-1980s.

17 Brilliant part particularly pleasing to the eye (6,7)
GOLDEN SECTION – A six letter word meaning brilliant followed by a seven letter meaning part.  As the solution is a noun, the definition would be better clued as “something particularly pleasing…” otherwise the definition suggests and adjective as the solution.

20 Twenty four seven (5,3,5)
ROUND THE CLOCK – Another just about mildly cryptic definition of a continual period.

23 Unaffirmative Shakespearean moneylender gives something of inferior American quality (6)
SHLOCK – Remove the Y (un-affirmative) from the moneylender in the Merchant of Venice.  Odd though it seems, Y for Yes is not recognised as an abbreviation in Chambers or Collins.

25 Iconic nomenclature given to log on (8)
USERNAME – A mildly cryptic definition of something you need to use to log-on at a computer terminal.

28 Standards organisation gets boost to balanced hydration (8)
ISOTONIC – The abbreviation for the International Organisation for Standardisation followed by a five letter word meaning boost.  Again the definition is not quite correct.  Giving balanced hydration would give the correct adjectival meaning.

29 Drinks electric soda with a thousand volts (6)
VODKAS – An anagram (electric) of SODA K (thousand) V (volts).  I would omit the A and, perhaps, have soda with kilo-volts instead.  The problem with the A is that it looks as if it is part of the anagram letters.

30 Pressing a flower that opens late (7,8)
EVENING PRIMROSE – A seven letter word meaning pressing followed by an eight letter word for a flower.  The definition only works if the word flower is used both part of the wordplay and part of the definition.  Overlaps such as this should not be used.


2 An arm now raised around each softly (6)
WEAPON – Reverse (raised) the NOW from the clue around the abbreviation for each and softly.

3 Overthrow again on the contrary (5)
REBUT – A two letter word meaning again followed by a three letter word meaning on the contrary.  I am not convinced that the first two letter (meaning on or concerning) also means again.

4 Of an age, for example Richard Ingrams (5)
OLDIE – Cryptic definition by reference to the magazine founded by Richard Ingrams.  I toyed with a three letter word meaning of an age followed by the abbreviation for that is (being confused with for example) giving a definition the magazine edited by Richard Ingrams but this had so many errors in the cluing that I discarded the idea as improbable.

5 Derek Trotter has pain inside part of joint (5)
DOWEL – The three letter name for Derek Trotter includes a two letter word meaning pain.  The two letter word is not the pain but the expression uttered when feeling pain.

6 See 16

7 Capital song sung in company (5)
CAIRO – A three letter word for a song that may be sung inside the abbreviation for company.

8 American in the clarts for a long time (9)
SUSTAINED – A two letter abbreviation for American inside a word for clarts.  Whilst clart means mud or dirt, you would need clarty to give the adjective required in the definition.

12 Those days when Caesar was green (5)
SALAD – Caesar is a definition by example of a type of food that also is used as part of a compound noun indicating the days of youth.

13 Vampire sheltering by the church (5)
LEECH – A three letter word for the sheltered side followed by the abbreviation for church.  As the three letter word is s noun or adjective, it should not be clued as a verb – sheltering.  Also, as this is a down clue, by does not work as a charade indicator.  Perhaps “Vampire’s shelter above church.

15 Minor adjustments to one’s appearance give power to perform on ice (5)
PRINK – The abbreviation for power over four letter word meaning to perform on ice.  As the solution is a verb, the definition would be better as “Make minor adjustments…”.

16/6 Andy and Fergie rent a miscellany of boiled sweets (9,7)
YORKSHIRE MIXTURE – The title of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson followed by a four letter word meaning rent and a seven letter word for a miscellany.  I think that this needs some indication that the solution is a trade name or make of boiled sweets.

17 Gloucestershire sent postal about regret for the thin porridge (5)
GRUEL – The two letter postcode for Gloucestershire around a three letter word meaning regret.

18 Thumps hose (5)
SOCKS – Double definition, the second being an item of footwear.

19 Monty’s parrot joined the invisible singers (5)
CHOIR – Another mildly cryptic definition from tMonty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.  “’E’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ ????? invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

21 Hired appropriate after the French refused (5,2)
TAKEN ON – A four letter word meaning steal or appropriate followed by the French for no.

22 Marks caused when severe acute respiratory syndrome got one down (6)
SMEARS – The abbreviation for severe acute respiratory syndrome around (got) the abbreviation for one (as the setter) in a downward direction.  Got is in the wrong tense.  Perhaps severe acute respiratory syndrome overwhelms yours truly.

24 Pertaining to digits, or more frequently than usual (5)
OFTEN – Split 2,3 the solution could mean pertaining to the decimal system or the number of fingers or toes.

25 Chapeau – I doff my hat in admiration at Egan (5)
UNCAP – Fortunately the setter has explained this in the comments.  As a clue it relies too heavily on a single incident in a cycling race to be to specialist as to be unfair to the majority of solvers.

26 The author’s final words written in the spoken voice (5)
ENVOI — The answer is hidden in (written in the) in the final two words of the clue.

27 The lowest point of this list of clues (5)
NADIR – Single straight definition exemplified by this position of this clue in the list.

52 comments on “Rookie Corner – 283

  1. We eventually ended up with a filled grid but there were several clues where we had to do some investigoogling, 4d, 16/6d and 17d for example.
    There were several other clues where the wordplay hit the post by being close but not quite grammatically correct (eg 15d).
    Over all, quite challenging and enjoyable to solve.
    Thanks Sloop.

  2. Quite a few nice ideas there. I liked 10, 2, 7, 27. But the part of speech clued needs to match that of the answer. 1a isn’t a “feeling”: “…portent of doom”, perhaps?

  3. Quite enjoyable but I finished with raised eyebrows at some of the obscure words in clues (clarts for example, I started by thinking it was a misprint) and in answers (23a, 15d).
    Then I had furrowed brows with some of the clues. I am not sure what part ‘Just say no’ plays in 14a, the way 29a is written can suggest an extra ‘A’ in the anagram material, and 25d somewhat mystifies me.
    I did need some electronic assistance and I did some reveals at the end to confirm answers.
    Favourite – 10a – it stands out from the rest.
    I will look forward to Prolixic’s review with interest.
    Thanks and well done Sloop.

  4. Thanks for your comments. I think that maybe there were some bits that were a bit parochial for some. Sorry about clarts that is a very NE/lowland scottish word for mucky. I love the suggestion about portent and wish I had spent a bit more time editing.
    Sorry about the alt. sp. of the americanism but I had worked myself into a corner and couldn’t find an alternative without starting over in SW. Similar with 18d and 15d. First suggestion for those was sucks prick and no way did I want to clue that!
    Just say no was an anti drug campaign and song from a tv prog in my childhood(grange hill)and fitted with the solution but again maybe a bit too specific for some.
    More considered response after a day at the coalface.

  5. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Sloop (John Bee?).

    I thought this was a very promising debut with some good ideas included and I did enjoy the solve overall. Around half of the clues on my page have got comments scribbled by them which, no doubt, Prolixic will address in his review. I am sure you will benefit from his wise words.
    I have never heard of 17a or 16/6 and, like Senf, assumed at first that “clarts” must be a typo.
    I can’t fully parse several answers and some of your surface readings were a bit dodgy.
    I particularly liked 10a, 28a, 7d, 13d, 18d and 24d.
    Well done, Sloop, and thank you. I look forward to your next offering.

    1. Thanks
      Yes it is John Bee. Not the most impenatrable alias of all time and I forgot to change my icon/avatar even though I did change my username.
      I thought the americanism esp. the alternative spelling would raise an eyebrow but I was working myself in a corner.

  6. Quite a 6d – I think I did better than some of the earlier commenters because I knew most of the less well known solutions in this one – for example, I’ve eaten many a quarter of 16/6.

    I’ve got a few ?s and some NQ (not quites) but I’m sure Prolixic will sort all these out in the review.

    Thanks to Sloop (although you’ve now left me with an ear worm – that’s the trouble with being of an age to remember songs from the 60s, not to mention the Just Say No campaign, and those 16/6)

    1. I think 16/6d are just the rejects from other production lines but they traditionally have a fish in every handful.
      I will bring a jar to the next Birthday Bash.

  7. Welcome Sloop (well done to RD on the unmasking). There are some really good ideas here but as others have said some of the grammar doesn’t quite work – Prolixic’s advice will be invaluable on this.
    Top clues for me were 10a and 7d.
    I look forward to your next puzzle.

  8. Welcome to the den, Sloop, where you must feel that 1a is hanging over you!
    Like others, I found some new words/phrases here – 17&23a plus 15 & 16/6d – thought you were brave to include them.
    My favourite was 10a and 12d raised a smile.

    As the 2Ks commented, you hit the post on several occasions but the ideas are there and I can see no reason why you won’t improve greatly as you gain more experience. Personal plea – watch those surface reads!

    Well done for compiling this – hope you’ll bring us some more.

  9. Welcome Sloop.

    My first thought late last night when I printed off the puzzle and saw the setter’s name was the same as RD’s, so I was pleased to see that my hunch was correct. Good Vibrations perhaps? God Only Knows!

    As others have said, many good ideas were in evidence that didn’t necessarily translate into sound clues or good surfaces unfortunately. I struggled to find much, if any, cryptic content in 9a, 20a or 25a and I wasn’t a huge fan of the grid with its six double unches. Like Gazza, I warmed to 10a and 7d more than the other clues.

    Well done indeed though on your Rookie Corner debut, and I hope you’ll feel emboldened to Do It Again. Wouldn’t It Be Nice?!

    Many thanks, Sloop.

  10. Good fun! Most of this is very good and, with some suggestions from Prolixic taken on board (which no doubt you’ll see tomorrow) will improve from there very quickly, I think.

    You have clearly put some strong thought into your surfaces, for example. In a few places you have stretched these beyond what the ‘Definition+Wordplay’ of the clue requires (e.g. ‘just say no’ that others have mentioned) but it is the area of clue writing that some really struggle with, so well done.

    Best of luck and I look forward to your next!


  11. I too have a filled grid but several question marks on the page. A couple of new-to-me answers. I did know ‘clarts’, however, courtesy of reading so many Catherine Cookson novels in the past. Can’t see what was cryptic about 20A. 10A was far and away my favorite clue. Thanks Sloop. Hope to see you back here before too long.

    1. re:20a Yorks Hire Mixture. That makes it cryptic enough for me (but I could be wrong).
      Thanks Sloop for the first Rookie I’ve been able to finish in a while.

  12. Hello Sloop – some interesting thinking in this puzzle. I bumbled (sorry) my way through rather erratically being unsure I had the right answer in places, which is key to enjoyment for me

    Your comment @4 is tell-tale. My suggestion would be to make it easier for yourself from the outset; spend more time making a user friendly grid that flows nicely (avoid double unches, multiple contiguous checkers etc), and editing the entries before you start, so you don’t end up ‘in a corner’ as you put it

    Well done for putting a puzzle together at all and thanks for the challenge

  13. Thanks for all the comments so far. I plead guilty to rushing into this a bit. Barely a fortnight passed between acting on Gazza’s advice on software and submitting to BD, although some of the clues were jotted down in one form or another for a while longer. I remember being impressed by watching Anax construct a crossword “live” but failed to find the youtube clip again so mine is a pale imitation of that. Choosing the grid was largely determined by how many of my pre prepared clues could fit in. I will try again and hope to address the concerns then. I wont rush though as editing and planning were shortfalls here.
    Yes Jane I do feel a 1a “portent” (Thanks Void) of doom about ProliXic’s review but will persevere until my offerings come closer to some of the other puzzles to grace this corner.

    1. John,

      A fortnight does seem a bit of a rush for a first puzzle. Every setter is different but what I like to do after I’ve “finished” a puzzle and had it test solved (and fixed the problems identified by the test solver(s)) is to put it aside for at least a month and then go through the clues again with fresh eyes, trying to see each one as a solver might do. I find this often gives a new perspective on the clues and throws up changes which are, I hope, improvements.

      Sloop is a brilliant alias, by the way.

      1. Thanks
        I agree I will certainly take a bit (for bit read lot)more time with the next one.
        I think (know) it was Sir Linkalot who first dubbed me Sloop. I haven’t seen him around the blog lately. I assume a curse of the working classes.
        When I was conversing with BD about my alias he pointed out that Lonnie Donegan came first with a version called “I wanna go home” That may be my response after ProliXic’s review!

  14. I struggled to finish this because some words and answers were unknown to me. But with the help of Google, and a bit of guesswork, I got there in the end. I liked the anagram of 1a but agree that the definition is not quite right. Maybe a question mark would have made the clue read better and indicate the iffyness of the definition, therefore allowing a bit of slack? I hope so because my own puzzle is scheduled as number 284!

    More power to your elbow, Sloop!

      1. It has been fun, Sloop, but every time I look at it I see something wrong with at least one clue and end up either editing them or completely rewriting them. I stopped sending Dave the updated version after v3 and will not send the final version until I’m certain it is!

      2. Final edit now in Dave’s hands. Not sure if I’m looking forward to Monday morning or not. I certainly enjoyed the clues but it remains to be seen if anyone else does!

  15. Hello Sloop, thanks for braving the Corner. You clearly have the right general idea and some creativity. These comments are made without reading previous ones, so I may cover old ground.
    I liked 10, 11,2,5,12 and 26 – probably 10 is the best.
    Prolixic will point out the technical issues with many of your clues, I’ll just say that whilst it is OK for the surface of the wordplay to extend the definition, or even be the entire definition, it is unfair imo to the solver to have the definition do ‘double duty’ as part of the wordplay – as you have done several times here.
    I couldn’t parse 25d, perhaps my general knowledge doesn’t overlap with yours in that instance. Also the term in 16/6 appears not to be in general use.
    Thanks for the diversion.

    1. Thanks
      16/6 is a bit of a local sweetmeat. It is mainly the rejects and mis-shapes from other boiled sweets but traditionally includes a fish shaped sweet everynow and again.
      25d Chapeau is a french expression of admiration and is a symbolic doffing of UN CAP. Geraint Thomas had just Chapeau-ed his team mate Egan Bernal who had just won the Tour de France as I wrote this clue. My keen support for cycling, that the solver probably does not share and the passage of time has made this a poorer clue than intended.

  16. When I first looked at this I could hardly do any of it but then I got annoyed with myself and kept going.
    Unlike others I don’t>b/> have a completely full grid – I suspect something must have gone a bit wrong, to put it politely, in the bottom right corner.
    There were several things that I didn’t know – the 16/6 sweets, 17a, never heard of it, and others.
    I absolutely loved 10a and there were lots more runners-up, including 1a which took me an age to sort out.
    With thanks and “I doff my chapeau for being brave enough to do this” to Sloop aka LBR and, in advance, to Prolixic.
    I still don’t get the Sloop alias that everyone else seems to have cottoned on to? :unsure:

      1. Tis I John Bee. as in Sloop John B (thanks RD)
        The Golden Section is also known as the Golden Ratio and if you look it up in Wikipaedia you get a mass of maths but it is a ratio that nature follows in things like sunflower seeds and architects follow to get proportions pleasing to the eye. Photographers also use it in composition to make a pleasing image.

        1. I recall reading some time ago that Kate Middleton’s face was deemed to be an example of the Golden Ratio. I see that the same is now being said of Meghan – our young princes obviously have a good eye!

              1. :smile:
                You can – you do a little backwardy arrow thingy . No gaps, then type whatever you want to be in bold. When you want the bold stuff to go away you just do – that’s the bit I quite often forget to do!

                1. Rats – that’s all gone wrong! I think somewhere – maybe the FAQ bit – it tells you what to do – perhaps I should have just said that in the first place.

  17. I found some of the definitions very vague, eg, 9a, 30a, 27d. Grammatically, there were some inaccuracies, eg, in 15a, the definition is a noun, but the answer is a verb ,while, in the same clue, the cryptic wordplay uses a verb to indicate a noun. Likewise, in 13d, ‘sheltering’ is an adjective used to indicate a non. Also, some bits seemed to me unnecessary, and therefore misleading – in 14a, I don’t understand what ‘Just say no’ is doing, while in 7d ‘air’ is superfluous, and likewise ‘An’ isn’t needed in 2d. Some pretty good ones, though – I liked 11a, and 2d (despite the ‘An’!). So OK, Sloop!

  18. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, I’m sure that Sloop will appreciate your words of wisdom.
    I learnt something new from your analysis – I was unaware that RINK can be used as a verb, albeit an archaic Scottish one!

  19. Many thanks for your review Prolixic. I will study it alongside your excellent “A brief guide to the construction of cryptic crossword clues” on the rookie corner page. As mentioned above I plead guilty to rushing into this a bit headlong but I will try again with your words in mind. I won’t rush as there is still a bit of cycling to watch (Yorkshire host the World Championships soon) but I will be back hopefully better soon.

  20. Hardly ever have time to tackle a rookie this year but when I saw your avatar I had to print it.
    Congratulations for having a go.
    The thing that pleased me the most was the fact that no obscure answers appeared in the grid.
    Thanks to Sloop and to Prolixic for the analysis.

    1. Chapeau Jean luc.
      I am pleased you found time for my first go.
      I didn’t manage to work any star trek in there but I did get a bit of french!

  21. Very late to the party – it’s been a busy week – so most of what I might have said has already been said. But I would endorse the comments about making a user-friendly grid and leaving a completed puzzle aside to look at again later. And one specific comment in addition to Prolixic’s about 28ac: I thought it was a bit clunky in that ‘Standards organisation’ was a bit too obvious for ‘ISO’ although I have to admit it would take me some time to come up with a suitable cryptic alternative.
    Keep at it, though, and I’ll look forward to your next puzzle.
    PS. I did know the Chapeau reference but as Egan (Bernal) isn’t in either the Vuelta or the Tour of Britain, and those are engaging my attention at the moment it rather passed me by.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I think you have captured one thing I have discovered. If you have constructed the puzzle and written the clues they all seem “easy”
      It seems as though finding the balance between too easy and too hard is the key.

      Thanks again to everyone else who has had a go at my first effort.

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